Kwabs: Earning His Name In Lights


Features, Music, Review | by — April 11, 2014


Village Underground
April 10th, 2014

by Ella Fitzsimmons

Entering the stage with his name in flashing lights, Kwabs has an almost ridiculously soul-y voice. On a less ambitious artist, those pipes would have had him dominating a Nigel Lythgoe or Simon Cowell reality show with a selection of heartfelt Billy Joel and Bill Withers covers. Lo and behold, there’s a whiff of reality TV in his resume, but luckily it’s not where he’s making his musical home.

Instead, Kwabs seems intent on playing around with genres. He could easily just go full baby-making Teddy Pendergrass for an hour on stage, but he doesn’t. Well, other than in “Say yeah”. Mid-tune, my mate turned to me and went, “I think I just felt my ovaries twitch.”

My mate is male.

And straight.

Kwabs could easily stay in that territory, but he seems keen to keep pushing himself. It was a really diverse set. There was a touch of electronica here, a bit of (and I mean this is the best possible way) Peter Gabriel there and the occasional echo of Frank Ocean. Usually, I’d say this musical range was a sign of indecision, or of an artist that was trying to work out who he or she is, but not here. It works because, much like the rug in the Big Lebowski, the quality of Kwabs’s voice really ties the room together. It also helps that he’s backed by a really tight band, and that the sound at the Village Underground is impressive. Whoever does the sound in that venue, which looks like it would be tricky to stop echoing, deserves a shout out.

An ex of mine used to humblebrag about having seen Arcade Fire at a church in Manhattan before they went stratospheric. As Kwabs’ set pulled to a close, I was wondering if this was the same sort of gig. Then, when playing the last track before the encore, I saw Kwabs turn to the keyboardist and just give him the biggest, most life-affirming “This is us” grin. That kid knew he killed it, and he was right. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see his name in lights on big arenas soon.

Leave a Reply